Interview Ready: Refinery29 Part III

April 01, 2014

We’ve already caught up with Editor in Chief, Christene Barberich and Style Features Editor, Leeann Duggan. Now, for the third and final part of our refine your work style series, we give you the wise words of Refinery29 Art Director Katelyn Kappel. From interview tips to how to stand out on the job, this savvy advice will get you excited to go to work.

For so many women, Refinery29 is a dream job! Tell us more about what you do and how you landed your position.

As an art director and designer on the creative team at Refinery29, I love my job because it’s very hands on and I get to do a little bit of everything. Most days I’m working on web design, but sometimes it’s a print project or art directing a photo shoot. This is the definition of a dream job to me — a role that allows me to exercise all of my talents and passions. l landed this job by applying for the open role on the Refinery29.com corporate site. Then I followed up with the recruiter on LinkedIn to let her know how interested and excited I was about the position. I had been a follower and fan of the site for years. I felt like Refinery29 had such a strong sense of self. I always admired them for being a cutting edge fashion resource that felt very approachable, like you were getting your news from a good friend. They didn’t take themselves too seriously and everyone looked like they were having fun doing it. It turned out to be very true!

What advice do you give recent college graduates and other candidates hoping to make it in fashion? 

All experience is good experience. When I graduated college, I moved from Chicago to New York for a summer. I interned at a fashion photography agency, and one of my main tasks was organizing and updating the hard copies of the photographers’ portfolios in a little room full of filing cabinets. My supervisor would often come in and apologize that he had me doing such a mundane task, but I was over the moon. I would just pore over these beautiful prints that came in from these artists I so admired. I wasn’t on glamorous photo shoots, but I was meeting people in the industry, observing how a photography agency ran, and adding to my resume.

What is the one key wardrobe piece you recommend for interviewing? 

Confidence is key. So wear the outfit that represents you and that you’re the most comfortable in. I’m a bit of a minimalist, so I like simple, graphic silhouettes with understated accents. I’d probably wear my oversized white blouse from Zara with a sheer panel across the shoulders with my black wax-coated jeans from Comptoir des Cotonniers. It’s very me. It feels on trend, but not overdone. It isn’t so flashy that it’s distracting from the task at hand — talking about design and explaining my work.

Refinery29 is obviously a creative environment. What would you recommend to women interviewing in a similar environment. In other words, how does one look polished, but not too boring? 

When you’re interviewing in the fashion industry, you don’t want to look too business casual, but you definitely don’t want to be wearing every trend of the season at one time. Again, just be you. As a digital designer, I’m often showcasing my work on an iPad or laptop in an interview, so my jewelry sometimes becomes a focal point. Those simple pieces often do a great job of defining my personal aesthetic — graphic and understated. I stack a Giles & Brother brass railroad spike bracelet on top of a simple, brass bracelet I got at Artists & Fleas in Williamsburg. These are the personal touches that make your style unique and memorable.

How would you describe your work style? How does it differ from your personal style, or what you wear on weekends? 

Conveniently, almost anything goes at Refinery29. My personal style and work style are pretty much exactly the same. On the weekends, I’m definitely more of a habitual dresser. Comfort is very important, but I try not to live in sweatpants.

What is the biggest mistake you see applicants make? 

Know your stuff!  If you’re really passionate about your chosen career path, you should be immersed in it. You should be able to have intelligent conversations about what’s happening in the fashion industry, who influences and inspires you, and have a knowledge of and respect for the designers, photographers, editors, and artists who make it come to life. I’m much more impressed by how eloquently a candidate can speak about their design work than I am by their handbag.

Summer is just around the corner and fashion offices everywhere will be filling up with interns. What advice would you give an intern hoping to make a lasting impression? 

Work hard and be nice to people. It’s so simple and it will get you so far.

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